Read an Excerpt
Ladies of the Lake
A Mystery Novel
By Duncan L. Dieterly
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013Duncan L. Dieterly
All rights reserved.
Fair play with others is primarily the practice of not blaming them for anything that is wrong with us. We tend to rub our guilty conscience against others the way we wipe dirty fingers on a rag. This is as evil a misuse of others as the practice of exploitation.
Ronda's Donut Hole
Sebastian leaned his weight inward on the 'squeaky clean' glass door of Ronda's Donut Hole. The door opened, triggering the tarnished worn silver bell above it. Its small tinkling voice, amiably announced his arrival. The trusty diminutive bell stood guard, day and night, warm and cold, summer and winter, declaring the arrival and departure of the store's numerous customers.
The engulfing powerful aroma of warm fresh-baked pastry leaped out of the slowly closing door behind him into the drab parking lot. The door snapped closed, once more trapping the sensuous odors. Only two people were in the balmy bright store. The fresh pastry fragrance comfortably embraced him, nourishing his soul.
Hands thrust into his pants pockets; he walked briskly by the long row of sparkling clean, partially filled display cases. He waved at Tracy, the young waitress, who was busy clumsily picking out an apple fritter with large clear plastic tongs. Her hands were encased in plastic gloves, yet another mandated sanitary precaution.
Ambling easily toward his usual corner table in the far back he felt welcomed. Tracy was concentrating intensely on satisfying her only customer, an older man, who was prudently deliberating.
The rumpled gray-headed customer, wearing a blaring Hawaiian shirt and stark white shorts, was awkwardly bent over, intently studying the variety of freshly baked choices. He grunted deeply as he solemnly pointed with a thin gnarled finger at each of his shrewdly determined selections.
At this time of the morning, eight-thirty, they were all still fresh and warm, but he could discern the difference in quality based on his years of experience. As a connoisseur of apple fritters and jelly-filled doughnuts, he recognized quality, judiciously selecting only the finest. Every day he always bought six, three of each kind selected and two medium-sized cups of black coffee, no sugar and no cream ... to go.
Sebastian, who encountered this man frequently, had assumed, at first that he must be taking breakfast home to his wife. However, several months ago, Sebastian had inadvertently stumbled upon the old man behind Hughes Grocery. He was sitting on the dusty ground beneath a low scrubby tree, near the baseball field, engaged in a mock breakfast with an imaginary friend. Sebastian, embarrassed for both of them, had walked quickly by hearing the old man say,
"Why yes dear we can have steak for dinner, tonight. Whatever you prefer, darling."
Several days later, the grocery store manager, Jay Fishman, informed him that the old man had been doing that every day since Jay started as store manager back in 2002. Jay also added that one of his older clerks maintained that the old man was never married, but had always pretended to have a wife. He would refer to her when chatting with the clerks while purchasing his meager weekly groceries. For example, causally mentioning to the checkout clerk,
"Oh yes my wife enjoys lima beans." Justifying to them, his item choices.
Sebastian eased his full body into his preferred back corner booth. The aging wood and plastic sighed as his full weight sunk into the worn groove made by thousands of descending bottoms. Removing his morning newspaper, which was tucked under his arm, he opened it, methodically discarding the unwanted sections. He always tossed out the classified section, the fashion section, the society section and the sports section.
Sebastian was not a fashion hound nor sports fan. Tossing these on the bench seat across from him, he spread the remaining newspaper across the table, smoothing it flat, preparing to read his chosen sections. Scanning the articles he searched for reliable news. He read the newspaper from the inside out, saving the front page for last; building up to the major catastrophic events.
The old man Tracy was serving, who had finally made his selections, spent considerable time fishing about in his pockets to locate the exact change for his purchase. Tracy nervously smoothed her hand along the side of her skirt, patiently smiling uncomfortably, as the old man laboriously chanted,
"Twenty five, fifty, seventy five, one dollar, a dollar ten ..."
Sebastian focused on the Metro page. The headline blared, "Police Chief and Mayor will Fight Gangs" He thought to himself, Ole darling Bill and Gill are acting like newlyweds on this one. Bending closer he started to read the article. It seemed the police chief and mayor had previously developed the 2009 Gang Initiatives to further reduce their impact on the greater LA area. They maintained that currently gang homicides were down by twenty-five percent and gang crime by ten percent. The continued application of the initiatives would further reduce those rates in addition to a focus on aggressively eliminating gang graffiti.
If the gang homicides were of gang members, this was not a step in the right direction. I would stop worrying about the blight of graffiti and start worrying about the increasing drug business that the gangbangers blatantly operated. Like a massive octopus, the gangs were strangling not only this country but Mexico and any South American countries they touched, as well.
His concentration was interrupted by Tracy's approaching tread. The old man's departure was punctuated by the tinkling bell. Her feet clicked lightly as she walked up to his table and placed his usual order down, next to his open paper. It was a plump cinnamon-crumb doughnut and a steaming hot cup of inky black Swiss mocha coffee. He looked at the coffee recalling the old days when coffee was ... well, just coffee, black and scalding, not a major taste event.
Although he had to admit, the aroma was exceptional. She waited. After a pause he obligingly looked up. Noting her tired brown eyes, trying to be cheerful for a change, with a forced enthusiasm, he said. "Thanks Tracy. You're the best waitress in this place!" He punctuated his trite remark with one of his award-winning grins.
She smiled, brushed back her long brown hair with the back of her hand, replying smartly. "Looks like ... I'm the only waitress in the place today!"
"Oh, what happened to Lanny and Kate?" he inquired politely, anxious to get back to his daily reading.
"Lanny called in sick. Kate has some sort of trouble with THAT daughter of hers again. She has to appear in Riverside City criminal court with her today."
"Oh, too bad. What did she do this time?"
"I'm not sure. I think she was caught shoplifting again." She wearily leaned her full hip against the slight table for support as she chatted with him. His coffee gently lapped at the sides of the cup as her hip pushed rhythmically against the table.
"Well let's hope she gets Judge Dolbert. That old hound has an eye for young lady offenders. He'll let her off with some community service and put her on probation for a year."
The bells pleading cry interrupted her. She shrugged, moving back toward the front counter and her new customer. She was a very conscientious waitress. She believed in giving her customer's quality service.
Sebastian lifted the steaming cup to his lips, blew briefly across the surface and sipped cautiously. He watched her full hips swing wide as she went back to her daily chores. She was budding into a sexy woman before his eyes.
Excerpted from Ladies of the Lake by Duncan L. Dieterly. Copyright © 2013 by Duncan L. Dieterly. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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